Foul ball and dinger retrieval rights shouldn’t necessarily be decided by merit. The most qualified person in a given section to score a game ball is generally going to be an adult with a baseball glove and a disconcertingly high threshold for self-humiliation. By contrast, the least qualified person to retrieve a loose game ball will be a small child. It turns out we’ve all kind of settled on personal significance as the deciding factor—possession of a game ball should mean more to a child, therefore game balls should be given to children, even though they are weak and frail and utterly incapable of bagging their own.
But there are plenty of instances where a game ball makes its way into a section where there are no children around, and otherwise respectable adults abandon all pretense of dignity and become ravening beasts, fighting tooth and nail for baseballs that can be purchased for $13 at the nearest big box retailer. Witness the madness that ensued in Oakland Wednesday, when a foul ball off the bat of César Puello found its way into a sparsely filled lower section along the right field line:
The victor in this grim competition was a woman in a baseball cap, whose pursuit amounted to taking two steps out into the aisle, walking down two rows, and waiting for the ball to squirt past the searching hands of another man engaged in the hunt. I submit that all of these people lost something in this pursuit, but no one lost more than the man in the white cap and red socks, who leapt over several rows, threw away his baseball glove, and body surfed over another four rows before ultimately coming away empty-handed, and I’m sure very bruised-up and sore.
I have to admit, I’m a little bit torn about the fairness of this outcome! I don’t know if red socks man exactly deserved the foul ball, but he certainly put vastly more effort into retrieving it, and paid the highest price for his pursuit. On the other hand, as an adult man who brought a glove to a professional baseball game and threw himself wildly down half a section in pursuit of a damn foul ball, perhaps he deserved it less than anyone? I think if I’d been sitting in that section and the ball had come to me, I would’ve automatically given it to this poor battered fellow, out of shock and pity and horror over how much it evidently meant to him. Or would that have embarrassed him even further? There are no easy answers when adults care way too much about getting their hands on a lousy foul ball.